I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, June 30, 2019

How quickly time goes by

Norma Jean and me
Last night I lay awake for part of the night, thinking about this post. What to write about? What's on my mind at the end of June in 2019, more than a half century since my father took this picture of his two daughters?

When I look at this picture, I think of those two little girls, barely out of babyhood. In our pretty dresses that were probably sewn for us by our mother, I think of how important Norma Jean is in my life today, although we live on opposite sides of the continent. She is still my little sister, and I will always be the older sister. We are holding hands, and she was obviously upset by something and told to dry her tears for the picture.

I have no memory of that day, but it was a day just like any other. Twenty-four hours long, with the two of us together, just like we had been ever since my baby sister was born. She's never known a world without me in it, and I was two when she came into my life. Two souls who have lived our lives away from each other, having made our own lives and families. But we will always be the two oldest siblings of six. One sister, who wasn't yet born when this picture was taken, died at the age of 63, so you know how ancient this image is.

That was me, then, with the life passages I would go through still ahead. I wonder if I could read yet. I know I was quite young when I learned how, but the actual age when I first started reading is lost. There is no one still alive who remembers those little girls as they were then. My parents both died in their sixties, although Mama was only a few months shy of turning seventy. Heart disease took them both; it runs in our family. That was what my sister PJ died of, and my son Chris. Now that statin drugs are available, my sister Norma Jean and I both have taken them for decades, and I sometimes wonder if they had been around earlier, would my parents have had longer lives? It's all water under the bridge now, and here I am sitting propped up in my bed writing this post on my laptop, which I will be able to post right from this spot, once it's done.

Last month I had my annual checkup with my doctor. She told me I should be happy that I am doing so well, healthy and vigorous. When I complained to her about my cholesterol numbers not being as good as the previous year, she reminded me that I am a year older, and that we all become different from one year to the next. Although she didn't say it exactly, I believe she was reminding me that we are all traveling in one direction only: towards infirmity and frailty.

When I reminisce about my life, looking back at all I have gone through, all that I've learned and forgotten, it seems like it all happened in a flash, but of course it didn't. All those days and nights followed one another and the incremental passage of time altered my experiences a little at a time. Once upon a time I was that girl, then I became a woman, wife and mother. Now I am childless, but it wasn't always so. I gave birth to two beautiful boys, both of whom left the planet before me, so I have no grandchildren. It wasn't my path, but I didn't know that then. There are so many people who dote on their grandchildren, and I think I might have also, but there is no way to tell. Other people's grandchildren give me pleasure (or I should say sometimes they do), so I don't feel any lack in my life from day to day. My partner and I share our lives with one another, and it's enough.
Love does not consist in gazing at each other (one perfect sunrise gazing at another!) but in looking outward together in the same direction. ―Anne Morrow Lindbergh
My days are filled with plenty of activity, and each one has something to enjoy. Recently, at least during these last few years, I've discovered yoga and its ability to help me with the aches and pains of age. When I was young, I thought that a practitioner of yoga would always be lithe and supple, and then I discovered that is not true: we come in all sizes and shapes, and fortunately there are classes for all, and that perseverance will allow me to do poses I thought I'd never master. I work towards each one and find that the effort is worthwhile, even if I am not able to get there today, perhaps tomorrow I will.

Once I am unable to practice yoga, I'll find something else. There is no restriction to what's possible, with enough persistence and clear-eyed understanding of my limitations. Sometimes I forget that I am an old woman and will never again be able to run a marathon, but then I realize that I can still walk and enjoy the outdoors in a more relaxed way. Adjusting my goals, but always having goals, is one way that I move forward through life.

Today I'll head to the coffee shop and enjoy a latte with my dear friends who always look forward to visiting with me, as I do with them. And then later I'll go to the movies with my friend Judy, and after checking the condition of my vegetable garden, I'll finally settle into my favorite chair and pick up my latest book. Although my eyes are getting old and I have macular degeneration, I can still read with the help of my glasses. I do have to remember to rest my eyes and not read too long, or things begin to get blurry. But for now, I am able to do everything that I want as long as I pay attention.

It' time for me to get out of bed and begin the rest of my day. First, I'll step on the scales, part of my morning routine. Then I'll go onto the front porch and do my exercises before brushing my teeth and getting ready to head out into the sunshine. My partner will still be asleep when I leave, so I'll find out how he slept once I return home. It's a pretty wonderful life.

I hope you will remember to give your loved ones a hug, or a call, or just sit and think about them for awhile if they're already on the other side. We all need a reminder that someone is thinking about us, giving us virtual hugs if needed, and that we are all on this lifeboat together. Until next week, I wish you all good things. Be well.


Marie Smith said...

Love that quote. It is exactly how I feel and see my marriage.

Sending a virtual hug across the continent. Have a great week.

Linda Reeder said...

I like that quote too.
We're coming down off an exciting night of soccer and looking forward to a day of garden touring in Gig Harbor. It's a beautiful day to fill with the beauty of life.
Be well and happy.

Rian said...

"Adjusting our goals" - yes, I think that's one of the keys to surviving old age. Your post today reminded me of that song "Don't Blink" by Kenny Chesney... how life goes by so very fast.

Terra said...

This is a great post. From little children to senior citizens, yes, that is us. Adjust our goals, be flexible, keep our friends and family close in heart (my sister lives across the country too). For me Bible study with other women is another plus.

gigi-hawaii said...

I like your philosophy of life and the great pleasure you get from living the way you do. Blessings.

Gigi said...

I just love these old photos that you sometimes share! I can see you in that little girl's face.

Have a great week, DJan! Sending a hug from the other side of the continent.

Red said...

We look back to try and make sense of what happened. My Mom had breast cancer in 1969. at that time it was a death sentence now much can be done to prevent cancer and cure some of it. However we look back and remember the good times we had.

Elephant's Child said...

Yet ANOTHER inspirational post and reminder. For which I thank you, with all of my heart.

ain't for city gals said...

I am 65 and in one month time I am going to take my first private yoga instruction. I feel I need to learn a little before I join a class. All because of your posts....thank you.

Rita said...

*hugs* :)

Linda Myers said...

Lovely post, as usual, DJan.

Mary said...

I collect sayings and short poems and this is one saying I think fits your post today so well

" The trickery of time visits me frequently, and I too, can taste and smell the moments long past. Some men far more intelligent than I, have proposed that time is relative; that it exists all at once and we have only divided it into sections for our own ease of organization. Perhaps when the "trickery" happens, we are caught in a time warp for a moment, and we really ARE in that moment again. It is an interesting concept, don't you think? "

Far Side of Fifty said...

Sending you a hug...so glad you are in my life:)

Arkansas Patti said...

I love how you don't rail against physical losses but you slip into a plan B that most people would accept as plan A. You set the bar high and please keep doing that to inspire the rest of us.

Azka Kamil said...

awesome article.
thanks for sharing :)

Donna said...

Thank you for your beautiful blog. I have been doing yoga since 1971. Today I did a class that was mainly breathing and when I'm exhausted I do restorative yoga. So I think you'll be able to do some form of yoga your whole life. Maybe not power yoga-but you never know.

William Kendall said...

It's good that you are able to get along with your sister.

John's Island said...

I like the thought that we are all moving in one direction. I have been lucky though with my walking and, feeling, at least a little bit younger. :-) And getting on the scales ... I’ve lost almost 20 pounds since starting my daily walks in February. Happy 4th to you and SG.

Galen Pearl said...

A writer about grief says that he begins his day by reminding himself, "I am one day closer to my death. How do I want to spend this day?" It sounds morbid, but making our peace with death (our own and others') allows us to live fully in whatever time we have. I have always admired your beautiful writings about how death has touched your life. You model the wisdom of that writer's practice. Thank you.